Avery Monroe, PE, LEED, AP, is Division Manager for RMF Engineering’s Charlotte operation. A partner with the firm, Monroe has been working as an engineer in the A/E industry for over 30 years. After joining RMF in 2001, he became a key leader in building a successful engineering team, which has worked with architects and owners to design and renovate several million square feet of space throughout the Southeast, including all 17 of the University of North Carolina System’s schools.
In 2013, Monroe was tapped to lead RMF’s newly opened branch office in Charlotte. His career has focused on the design, analysis, and construction administration of HVAC, plumbing and fire protection systems serving educational, healthcare, laboratory, military and commercial facilities. His specialization in the design of higher education and healthcare facilities throughout his career has allowed him to offer clients innovative and highly informed expertise. In his role at RMF, Monroe routinely utilizes sustainable design principles on facilities as well as documenting these principles in accordance with LEED and the state of North Carolina.
GroundBreak Carolinas recently chatted with Monroe about his background, his business philosophy and what drives him to succeed – and help others do the same.
Name some of the projects or achievements of which you are most proud.
I am most proud of where I came from and the challenges that I had to overcome to achieve the level of success that I have. I grew up in rural Bladen County, NC and spent my summers working on tobacco and blueberry farms and eventually in the pulp wood industry with my uncle when I was strong enough. These experiences taught me a strong work ethic that has carried me throughout my career.
Additionally, from an early age, I was interested in how the owners of these farms and businesses were able to make money and pay employees.
Working in the extreme heat of southeastern North Carolina was probably the single most motivating factor for me to find a better way to make a living. This desire led me to Howard University to study Mechanical Engineering and eventually business at North Carolina State University.
What are the 3-5 Leadership Principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?
- I am a firm believer that leaders should lead by example. Throughout my career I have always tried to lead by example. I have never asked an employee to do something that I am not willing to do myself. It is easier for team members to buy in to your vision if they see that you are willing to work at it just as hard or harder than they do.
- Building relationships is extremely important in our industry. Clients prefer working with people they like and enjoy being around. Employees are the same way. I can almost always find something I have in common with someone in order to make a connection.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Some people miss out on success because they are afraid to try something new or over think the decision to move forward. Although I am a technical person, I tend to make many decisions based on intuition and not overthinking the situation. The decisions may not always be the best, but those are the ones I learn from the most.
How do you empower your employees?
This is something I have struggled with throughout my career because I try to shield employees from some of the lessons that I had to learn the hard way. However, within the past few years I have made it a point to force employees to make decisions without my input. Not all decisions are right versus wrong and when employees get used to making decisions on their own it gives them the confidence to make tougher decisions.
What are the keys to developing the next generation of leaders in your world?
At RMF Engineering we utilize the co-operative education program that allows college students to alternate semesters of school with paid work experiences. These students are mentored by junior-level engineers. This allows us to expose students to our industry and by the time they graduate they have enough real experience to be hired and can contribute to the company from day one. Additionally, we offer internal project management and leadership training for our engineers to assist with their paths to leadership.
What was your first job?
My first professional job was an engineering co-operative education (co-op) experience with the Tennessee Valley Authority in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I spent three summers and two spring semesters working in a wastewater analysis lab and in the design group where I learned drafting and surveying.
Career advice you would like to give others.
Hard work and integrity will pay off in the long run. Do things the right way and you will achieve sustainable success. Don’t chase the dollar. Build your skills and the dollar will find you.
Person you most admire.
I was introduced to the HVAC and buildings systems industry by Charles Ford, PE. Mr. Ford hired me as a part time employee at his firm, Charles Ford & Associates, while I was a student studying mechanical engineering at Howard University. He encouraged me to pursue my professional engineer’s license and continues to be a great mentor to me.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I played a middle school basketball game in the 9th grade against Michael Jordan. I scored 7 points, I believe he scored 14 points, and my team won. By the way, I have not grown an inch since the 9th grade. I made a wise choice in my career pursuit.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
The desire to find more challenging opportunities for our company. Most of the projects that we do have interesting people and stories behind them.
What behaviors and performances do your best employees demonstrate?
Our best employees take the initiative to learn and try new things outside of their core responsibilities. They are not afraid to fail. They are also willing to make decisions with limited input.
Monroe earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a Master of Science in Management from North Carolina State University. He is a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) and is an active member of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) and the Construction Professionals Network of North Carolina.
More about RMF
Founded in 1983, RMF Engineering provides facility assessment, planning, design, and commissioning services to clients in the healthcare, higher education, laboratory/research, and government sectors. RMF’s talented staff of engineers apply superior services to solve engineering challenges, large and small, for complex buildings, as well as campus utility generation and distribution systems. With more than 270 employees in 11 U.S. offices, the RMF name is known to clients, peers, and prospects as a reliable partner that sees projects through from concept to completion.